From providing expert advice on medical software to increasing service member readiness to personnel management, several physicians at Madigan Army Medical Center are serving as consultants to the Surgeon General as the leading specialists in their field.
“The Surgeon General consultants are top experts in their fields, trusted to provide specialized counsel to Army Medicine leadership and to give insightful mentorship to their peers,” said Col. Michael Place, Madigan commander. “The fact that we have five such experts here at Madigan speaks to the incredible depth of talent and leadership amongst our staff.”
Madigan consultants cover the fields of adolescent medicine, medical informatics, neurology, pathology and surety medicine for Army Medicine. Consultants are field grade officers who go through a lengthy process to apply for the four- to six-year position.
“I like the mission of the consultant, which is to coordinate the actions for the specialty,” said Lt. Col. George Leonard, Madigan chief of pathology and the pathology consultant to the Surgeon General. “You’re the one person who’s responsible for essentially the direction that the specialty goes.”
He advises the Human Resource Command pathology career manager on which pathologists may be the best fit for positions open to them — quite a hefty task for a career field with nearly 120 pathologists at different points in their careers, from resident to fellow to specialist. Leonard sees it as contributing to recruitment and retention for a career field that specializes in diagnostic medicine, ranging from microbiology and transfusions to biopsies and autopsies.
“You have a big role in getting the right people into the specialty and an even bigger role, perhaps, in keeping them in the specialty,” Leonard said, who finds that his passion for teaching fits in with sharing career advice with younger officers.
With a career field of only seven officers, Col. Eric Shry spends much less time in his role as a consultant focusing on human resources and much more on offering expert advice on medical informatics. Shry, the chief medical information officer at Madigan and the medical informatics consultant to the Surgeon General, is more likely to be called upon to offer expert advice to the U.S. Army Medical Command or to represent them at high-level meetings.
As a cardiologist who specializes in clinical informatics, he functions as a liaison and a translator who can speak both the languages of clinicians and information technologists, telling the Information Management Division what clinicians need to be able to function. He’s the officer spearheading Madigan’s transition to the Department of Defense’s first unified electronic health record — MHS GENESIS.
Being a consultant to the Surgeon General gives him extra weight when giving feedback on the software’s development.
“As the consultant, I can speak for the Army frequently, and so the consultant role may put you on a very short list for who can represent the Army at Army/Navy/Air Force decision-making bodies,” Shry said.
Sometimes the consultant role means connecting the dots for how unique specialty fields still support service member readiness. While an outsider’s glance at the field of adolescent medicine may leave it feeling a bit removed from readiness, to Col. Jeffery Greene the connection is simple — a high percentage of service members are young adults, so there’s a large potential for transference of skills and knowledge.
Greene, the adolescent medicine consultant to the Surgeon General and Madigan’s medical director of pediatric and adolescent patient-centered medical home, recently explained to MEDCOM how adolescent medicine’s focus on mental health, reproductive health, sports medicine and reducing risk-taking behaviors applies just as much to dependent teenagers as to young service members.
In fact, Greene’s been adding to the skills of providers by training interns in adolescent medicine.
“(We’ve been) giving them the snapshot look of what adolescent medicine is so they can have a basic understanding when they go out to their first assignment,” Greene said.
One intern personally thanked Greene for the training after transferring to a Soldier-centered medical home.
“He said thanks, that it was his rotation with us that prepared him to take care of Soldiers.”
While Greene also assists Human Resource Command in managing the careers of adolescent medical doctors, with only 13 doctors in the specialty he can offer one-on-one advice on career progression and about the military in general. He also helps them with clinical questions from time to time, from complex eating disorders to mental health questions.
“What I think was my biggest accomplishment if you will … was getting feedback from young officers who call me their mentor,” Greene said, who said he just asks simple questions, shares his story and speaks from the heart. “The response I’ve gotten and the fact that they’re reaching out all of the time tells me I’ve made an impact.”